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U.S. International Broadcasting Budget Targets War On Terror

Washington, D.C., February 6, 2006-The proposed fiscal year 2007 budget for U.S. international broadcasting calls for an overall increase of 4.3% from fiscal year 2006 targeted to the war on terror and new technology. While proposed increases go primarily to Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Voice of America (VOA), non-war on terror related language services would see reductions and/or eliminations.

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson said, "In the post-Katrina budget environment, I believe we are fortunate to get an increase that strengthens our role in the war on terrorism. The '07 proposed budget of $671.9 million follows a 7.5% increase for fiscal year '06."

In recent years, the Bush Administration and Congress have wiped out the 40 percent cut in spending for international broadcasting during the 1990s following the end of the Cold War.

For fiscal year 2007, the budget proposal calls for a 13% increase for Middle East Broadcasting Networks and a 5.3% increase for Voice of America.

The Board of Governors' proposed $671.9 million budget includes a number of new initiatives, enhancements and a continuation of initiatives begun in '06. They include:

--Expanding service to Iran with a daily four-hour prime time VOA Persian television lineup and enhancing the Radio Farda website.

--Increasing Middle East television news coverage (Alhurra) from 16 to 24 hours a day and adding customized local news content and coverage for Radio Sawa.

--Adding a one-hour television program for Afghanistan in both Dari and Pashto, and enhancing transmission for VOA Pashto programming to the people of Afghanistan along the border region while adding additional FM and medium wave capability.

Faced with the increased costs of expanding critically needed television and radio programming to the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world, the Board has had to make some painful choices. As a result, the budget proposes reductions in English language programming, by eliminating VOA News Now radio while maintaining VOA English to Africa, Special English and VOA's English website.

The budget reflects the Board's commitment to English language programming in the medium of the future, the Internet, and for excellence in Special English programming. Research shows that millions more are benefiting from Internet programming than from shortwave transmission, which VOA News Now relies on.

Other proposed reductions include the elimination of VOA broadcasts in Croatian, Turkish, Thai, Greek and Georgian. VOA radio broadcasts in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Hindi would end while television programming in these languages would continue. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will continue radio programming in Russian and Georgian while eliminating radio programming in Macedonian.

"Every member of the Board of Governors regrets the loss of VOA services proposed in this budget," Tomlinson said. "The men and women who provided these services for many years served with distinction and provided programming that were critical to this nation's interests. However, the Board believes that the priorities reflected in this budget proposal represent the best allocation of funds."

The BBG is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN); Radio Free Asia (RFA); and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). Through its broadcast services, the BBG provides the United States and its leaders direct and immediate access to a worldwide audience of over 140 million people. BBG broadcasts reach this audience in 56 languages via radio, television, and Internet. All BBG broadcast entities, including the grantees, adhere to the broadcasting standards and principles mandated by the International Broadcasting Act of 1994. Nine members comprise the BBG, a presidentially appointed body. Current governors are Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Joaquin Blaya, Blanquita W. Cullum, D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Edward E. Kaufman, Norman J. Pattiz, and Steven Simmons. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice serves as an ex officio member.


... Payvand News - 2/7/06 ... --

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